PASADENA, Calif. (BP)–While many Christians were enjoying New Year’s Eve parties with their churches or with friends and family, a small group of people in Southern California worked to spread the Gospel to hundreds of thousands in a few short hours.
“By the end of the night we had 15 salvations and passed out over 800 brochures that shared the Gospel,” said Martin Davis, owner of a printing and graphics business in San Diego who has spearheaded a New Year’s Eve Rose Parade ministry for the past nine years. “The morning of the parade we gave out 4,000 of the brochures.”
Davis produces a brochure each year listing the order of the 50-plus floats in the nationally televised Rose Parade. He includes the plan of salvation in the brochure and numbers to call for more information on becoming a Christian and finding a local church.
The brochure is given compliments of Southern Baptist churches across America and paid for by the North American Mission Board, with which Davis serves as a Mission Service Corps volunteer. He also is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
For the past four years, a big part of the New Year’s Eve ministry has been a mime troupe from Acts International, a nationwide Christian mime ministry.
Three of the four troupes planned to perform turned back because of pouring rain on their way to the parade route in Pasadena, Calif.
“As soon as [the remaining mime troupe’s] van pulled into the parking lot, the rain stopped,” Davis said.
Tournament of Roses chief operating officer Bill Flinn said in a statement in the Pasadena Star-News, “God doesn’t rain on our parade,” crediting a century-old pact with local churches.
Tournament officials agreed to never schedule the Rose Parade on a Sunday and it hasn’t rained since, at least in the past 50 years, Flinn said. And next year, when Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday the parade is scheduled to move to Jan. 2, a Monday.
“This is a highlight of our year,” said Jennifer Stafford, mission director for the Mime team. “What better opportunity for the kids to share their gifts and talents with thousands of people. It’s incredible.”
The team of 22 mimes, ages 12-18 years old, performed at various places along the five-mile parade route. They set up two large speakers to play tracks for four songs depicting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
“It’s easier for me to tell people about Jesus this way without talking,” said mime team member Samuel Hughes, 13. “It’s very fun.”
Selina Thomas, 16, on the mime team for the first year, agreed. “I’ve heard stories about performing at the Rose Parade,” she said. “It’s cold and uncomfortable but fun.”
After each performance, Davis held an altar call with a megaphone.
After the second performance around 8 p.m., Chris Coria of Los Angeles, a parade watcher, found her way to Davis.
“She was talking about something else and I switched the conversation to the plan of salvation,” said Davis, who has seen many receive Christ as their Savior through the New Year’s ministry.
After praying to ask Jesus to be Lord of her life, Davis gave her a tract explaining how to read the Bible, what baptism is and how to find a local church. He also gave her a Gospel of John to begin her Christian journey.
Fannie, 9, and Jamie Vivaldo, 8, sisters from Los Angeles enjoyed watching the mimes.
“It’s great,” said Jamie Vivaldo, who took a break from doing vacation homework while waiting for the parade. “I like acting. I got the part that God died and came back.”
About noon each New Year’s Eve, Davis starts setting up for the teams that come to help him.
Each year a handful of people from various churches in Southern California, along with a few Campers on Mission and other church ministries help pass out the brochures.
Davis also has used balloon making and clowning to get the attention of the children.
“Even if we just get people thinking about Jesus, it’s worth it,” said Carol Smith, who drove with her retired husband, Clint, 67, from Tucson, Ariz., to assist the New Year’s Eve ministry. “It’s hard to get to know someone and build a relationship with them in a couple hours but we can do what we can. It’s a chance to share with them.”
Davis, who began volunteering to make the Rose Parade floats several years ago, noticed there was no Southern Baptist presence on the parade route where thousands camped out to get a good seat.
“I’m hoping more churches will catch on that we reach even more people here if we increase our manpower,” Davis said. For more information or to volunteer for next year’s Rose Parade ministry, contact Davis at [email protected]